Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A TOS Review: Essentials (Logic of English)

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t know everything about teaching English. I know this surprises you. After all, I hardly never make any grammatical errors (whatsoever) when writing my little blog. 

As if! I really need an editor. Preferably one who doesn’t write from the seat of her pants (does this even make sense!). Actually, I handled myself well in English during my school years. It was something that came easy to me. And I had some pretty terrific English teachers. This made my “paper writing, etc. career during college” easier. 

Fast forward several years and I am now the mother of a bright and creative son who happens to be dyslexic. I also happen to be his teacher. Initially, this little bit of news in our world scared the Dickens out of me. On one hand, I was relieved to know that his “issues” had a name. On the other hand, I didn’t know the first thing about teaching a dyslexic child to read. My brief stint as a teacher had left many with many experiences. This wasn’t one of them. 

I was beyond thrilled to have the chance to review Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set from Logic of English. I had heard good things about this comprehensive and thoughtful program. It was now to put it to the test. 


What I Received 

I received the Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set which includes:

  •     Essentials Teacher’s Manual

  •     Essentials Student Workbook in Manuscript (also available in Cursive)

  •     Spelling Journal

  •     Basic Phonogram Flash Cards

  •     Spelling Rule Flash Cards

  •     Grammar Rule Flash Cards

  •     Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards

  •     Game Book

  •     Game Card decks  - (2 decks are included in set)

  •     Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference Chart

The whole set costs $243.  The teacher’s manual, student workbook, spelling journal, and game book are also available in a PDF version as well.  You can purchase the products piecemeal.

The recommended age for Essentials is 7 – Adult. This opens up a whole new world for struggling readers and spellers, ESL students or for those who didn’t have an opportunity to learn proper grammar, spelling, vocabulary (etc) the first time around.

How it Works and How We Used It

Essentials covers the whole kit and caboodle when it comes to English. It covers reading, spelling, grammar, vocabulary and writing. What makes it appropriate for struggling learners is that it provides multi-sensory exercises and you can customize the program to meet your student’s needs. During the course of this program the student will learn 74 phonograms, 30 spelling rules and 80 grammar concepts. 

The Teacher’s Manual is one big book. Not to worry. Preparing for a lesson doesn’t involve hours of intense study. The lessons plans are scripted and easy to follow. I think anyone could follow along. There are teacher tips, examples…anything and everything to make this a pleasant experience for the teacher. 

The Teacher’s Manual also contains an introduction like no other. Sample schedules, an explanation of the structure of the lessons and more. I found that I didn’t really need to commit anything to memory. The lesson scripts themselves were quite informative. 

There are 40 lessons in all and each lesson (except for the assessment and review lessons) is broken into 3 different parts.

        Part 1: Includes Phonograms, Exploring Sounds and Spelling Rules.
In this section, you will drill with the phonogram flashcards. Next, your student will write down the phonogram you dictate. Spelling rules are next. They, of course, will coincide with the phonetic rules you are learning at the time. 

Have you heard of this little trick? You can sing vowels. You can't sing constants. The lips, tongue or teeth block the sound.

        Part 2: Spelling Analysis
This part includes spelling dictation and analysis. You will give your student a spelling test. Our tests so far have been 15 words. They have been a combination of easy words and more challenging ones. Josiah loves that he can spell. He is taking what he is learning and applying it. 

This is one of the early lessons. You can see that it included much more than spelling.

        Part 3: Composition, Grammar, Dictation, and Vocabulary Development.
Yes. All of these things encompass Part 3. Josiah has already learned so much in the few short weeks we have used Essentials. 

There is plenty of extra practice available for the student

It is recommended that you spend a few weeks (or less) familiarizing the student with the basic phonograms. We have done extensive phonogram work previously so I didn’t have to spend as much time reviewing.  

The sample schedules located in the Teacher’s Manual also help you plan your time. I was surprised the amount of time I needed to devote every day to English. It generally took 45 minutes to an hour. Because Josiah is 12, his daily English lesson was more intense than an emerging reader’s would be.  I generally divided up one lesson into two days. Josiah tends to wander off onto rabbit trails and I felt like initially I was constantly trying to rush through the lesson. 

When I first got the box of “stuff” I was a bit overwhelmed. Wow! How was I going to do this? Would there be tears? (on my part!). No problem. There are wonderful videos to help you navigate through everything. And to be honest it wasn’t difficult at all. 

This needs to be said. I, in no way, (shape or form) felt like the material was too rigorous for Josiah. I know that it is easy for struggling readers or dyslexics to become easily frustrated. Essentials moves nicely along. The lessons are broken down into numerous activities. Also, it isn’t laid out or presented in a childish manner. This is a sensitive subject for Josiah. He knows he learns differently. However, he doesn’t want to be talked down to or taught in a manner that would appeal to his kindergarten friends. 

 Essentials is neutral. The workbook is simple (which is best for dyslexics) and easy to navigate. It does not rely on cute characters or tricks. It simply helps me teach Josiah what he needs to succeed. It also follows a pattern. Josiah knows what to expect next and there is comfort in that. 

Talk to any teacher or homeschooling parent of a child with dyslexia or other reading issues and they will tell you that when looking for curriculum they look for words like “multi-sensory.” This is so important within a curriculum. Using games and activities, those brilliant parts of Josiah’s brain are activated and help make the lessons really stick. He is an auditory and kinesthetic learner. Essentials provides plenty of activities that help him use his gifts. 

This is not just any push up. It is part of a game called Move It! in the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book. For each sound read correctly, Josiah had to a push up. It is suggested to use any activity you wish. Josiah chose push ups! We really enjoyed the Game Book. There is a whole chapter on Active Phonogram Games.

I have been so impressed with Essentials. It has everything I need. I don’t have to worry about leaving gaps in Josiah’s English education. We have been so focused with learning the act of reading (and spelling) itself that things like grammar and punctuation often get left out. And these things are not separate acts. He can see that they all blend together. Most importantly, he is truly learning good solid stuff. He is not memorizing spelling words simply to pass a test. He is learning for his future success. 

I can tell you that it also takes a big load off of me. I don’t have to worry about knowing everything. You can read this post on the Logic of English blog entitled, “Teaching Reading is Not Rocket Science.” 

I realize the price will deter some. Most homeschool families are one income households. You can get by with just the Teacher’s Manual and the Student Workbook. On the other hand, this is a complete program. There isn’t any extra grammar or handwriting curriculum to purchase.

I can't recommend Essentials enough. 

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Rebekah,
    Thanks so much for reviewing Essentials! We're so glad it's been helpful for you and your son.

    It sounds like all is going beautifully, but I just wanted to make one note about Spelling Dictation that might be helpful: your goal when you dictate the spelling words is not to test them, but to teach them. Students practice applying the phonograms and rules they've learned, but sometimes there is more than one option, and then you guide their choice, and students figure out how to write the word using what they already know and the extra support for you. Testing would come later.

    So, for example, whenever you and the students are sounding out a word with a sound for which multiple spellings are permitted, you tell the student which phonogram to use, like this: "Throw. Let's sound it out: /th/ /r/ /ō/ (use '/ow-ō/'). Throw. Now write it, sounding it out as you write." The student then knows to use OW rather than O or OE or OUGH in this word. Afterward, you write it and you analyze the spelling together.

    You may have been doing this already, but I just wanted to mention it, as this process is a powerful tool in developing strong spelling and reading skills! There's a spelling dictation video on our website with more info if you'd like. (logicofenglish.com/video/topics).

    Thanks again for reviewing! Best wishes for your school year.

    Logic of English


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